Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining (in a jokey way) how the price of rents in London made it cheaper to live in Barcelona and commute back and forth every day to the British capital. Even renting a three-bedroomed apartment. The story went viral, touching a nerve with a lot of people facing high living costs, and at the same time dreaming of a better life in the sun.
Two years later, I found myself having to move house. Rents in that time had risen between 10 percent and 20 percent, and I found myself thinking that the idea in my blog post hadn’t been so crazy. In the end, I put together a plan that allowed me to live in Barcelona, heading back to the office in London several times a month, and even save a little money, in return for exchanging my shared apartment on the outskirts of London for a two-bedroomed place in the center of Barcelona.
A friend who worked at the Daily Mirror interviewed me. Then The Lad Bible and Buzzfeed picked up on the story. Contrary to what some newspapers have said, no, I don’t travel back and forth every day to London. I spend my time between the two cities (most of it in Barcelona), and work from here in the Catalan capital the rest of the time. I work for a social network company, helping train clients, and can work from home or in a coworking space.
When I go to London, I get up at 4.30am (it’s hard, but not as bad as I thought), am on the Aerobus at 5am, and at El Prat airport by 5.30am. The flight leaves at 7am, and with the time difference I am at Gatwick at 8am. I tend to arrive at my office by 9.30am, with a strong coffee and a bacon sandwich. That’s five hours: it used to take me two hours door to door.
Final approach into Barcelona last night. pic.twitter.com/fVt1jylmJH— Sam Cookney (@Sam_Cookney) July 24, 2015
I tend not to return home the same day, although I could. A kind friend in London has a spare bed. When I return to Barcelona, I usually get home around 11pm.
The choice of Barcelona was not a hard one. I spent a year here a decade ago, and since then have returned several times on holiday. It is still my favorite city in the world, and I didn’t give it a second thought when the idea came to me.
As for my friends and family, some are surprised. After my first blog post, everybody knew about my plan, but there was still widespread surprise when they found out I was going to put it into practice. Given that they now have a place to stay in Barcelona, there have been few complaints.
Barcelona 6am this morn. Feels a long time ago...! Now time for a nice relaxing steak birthday dinner... pic.twitter.com/NfHUNLQEJi— Sam Cookney (@Sam_Cookney) May 26, 2015
Crazy day. Here's a return flight to Barcelona selfie. (PS I'm still single...) pic.twitter.com/Yk82yTJ2MR— Sam Cookney (@Sam_Cookney) August 5, 2015
Just a reminder of the key facts, journos:— Sam Cookney (@Sam_Cookney) August 7, 2015
1. I commute BCN>LDN
2. I'm still single
Random street parties with DJs and bands all over Barcelona last night. The city always surprises. pic.twitter.com/f4tIlSfF2t— Sam Cookney (@Sam_Cookney) July 19, 2015
I now know a few people here, but this is a friendly city and I think it is pretty easy to make friends here (that said, I haven’t had much luck on Tinder so far: I’m available for dates in the city). For me, Barcelona has everything: sea, mountains, history, culture, food, nightlife, and I love the place.
Now that I am living here, I understand why people sometimes complain about the number of tourists and the way some of them behave. Barcelona is a small city (particularly the old quarter) and at the moment, it is overflowing with visitors. It used to be fun to go for a walk down the Rambla over the weekend, but it is now a no-go area for me.
So far, everything has turned out to be surprisingly easy. I thought that the traveling would be tough, but the truth is that everything has gone well without any problems. Some newspapers have asked me if there are any disadvantages to my decision and new life, but the truth is I can’t see any! There are some things (and people) I miss from my country, but for the moment, I am very happy with my decision.
In fact, a lot of people have told me that they would like to do something similar themselves, given the current situation in London. I don’t know how long I will continue living like this, but for the moment, I am enjoying myself and having a great time. If you see me sitting at a street café in Barcelona, don’t hesitate to say hi!